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Caging Borders and Carceral StatesIncarcerations, Immigration Detentions, and Resistance$
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Robert T. Chase

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469651231

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469651231.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 20 September 2021

The Path to Pelican Bay

The Path to Pelican Bay

The Origins of the Supermax Prison in the Shadow of the Law, 1982–1989

(p.303) The Path to Pelican Bay
Caging Borders and Carceral States

Keramet Reiter

University of North Carolina Press

The chapter showcases California’s prison bureaucracy where correctional bureaucrats pioneered the development of the “supermax” high-level-security prison, or “prisons within prisons.” Drawing on forty oral history interviews with prison administrators, lawyers, prison architects, and reformers, the chapter demonstrates how correctional bureaucrats initiated solutions to address local problems without political scrutiny. By focusing on local control through correctional bureaucrats, the chapter argues that bureaucrats acted as more than policy implementers but as “policy initiators” who reacted to fears over mounting prison uprisings, gang strife and racial violence, and prisoners’ rights lawsuits by redesigning the prison scheme to arrive at their “solution” of architectural cell isolation. In contrast to the top-down federal narrative of mass incarceration, this chapter reveals that correctional bureaucrats had near total control when advocating for the holistic redesign of the entire prison system within a supermax framework. Correctional bureaucrats thus remapped California’s prison system around a supermax framework with very little political and judicial intent, oversight, or scrutiny.

Keywords:   Supermax prison, Oral history, Bureaucrats, Local control, Fears, Prison uprisings, Gang strife, Racial violence, California, Cell isolation

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